Q Does Christian freedom allow us to use pot? Marijuana is now legal in two U.S. states. I know of some Christians who use it recreationally at parties as an alternative to alcohol.
A Marijuana’s medicinal properties have been scientifically documented. In fact, since 2001 Canada has legalized its medicinal use for those suffering from specific ailments with a doctor’s clearance. However, this does not mean people should abuse its hallucinogenic properties for recreational use.
Like any other drug, its abuse, especially long term, can cause physiological harm. There’s also the potential danger caused by impaired judgment when under the influence: there are countless documented cases of people accidentally hurting themselves or others while high on pot.
Like most drugs, marijuana can be addictive. And research shows that pot users often graduate to stronger, illicit drugs like heroin. For these reasons, it is unwise to abuse marijuana, or any drug for that matter, for recreational purposes. God’s good gift of medicine should be used under proper supervision and guidelines and within the law.
Christian freedom is not an excuse to smoke pot. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another” (Gal. 5:13, NRSV). Even where it is legal to smoke pot, it is not spiritually beneficial. “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are beneficial” (1 Cor. 6:12, NRSV). Remember that the fruit of the Spirit includes self-control (Gal. 5:22, 23). If the Bible views drunkenness as a “work of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-21), I suspect it would frown on getting high on marijuana simply for self-gratification.
Let us, instead, get intoxicated with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18)!
—Shaio Chong is a chaplain at York University in Toronto, Ontario.Church
Q The CRC’s administrative costs seem really high. We read that these costs are approximately 15 percent of the total budget. How is this money spent? Is this because of synod and board expenses?
A According to John Bolt, the CRC’s director of finance and administration, the denomination reports its total administrative costs according to generally accepted accounting standards for not-for-profit organizations. These include all costs relating to support services: senior leadership, business management, all financial services—including accounting, budgeting, and treasury—and all administrative costs related to these.
It also includes fundraising and membership development. The latter is very limited because it is a “denominational given.” This total does not include expenses for synods and boards. Although these bodies and its study and long-term committees can cost us an average of roughly a half million a year, says John Bolt, these costs don't sway the 15 percent figure very much, and we constantly seek to keep those numbers down. Meeting at Calvin College really does save us a bunch.
John also reminds us that some not-for-profits’ support services can be kept “artificially” low. A well-known charitable organization, for example, receives a great deal of revenue from in-kind donations, resulting in very low administrative costs. Others go well beyond the 15 percent level, so ours is very respectable. He’d like us to consider this question: would you give to an organization that has only 1 percent overhead? Or would you be concerned about that group's ability to be good stewards of its donations?
—Henry De Moor is professor of church polity emeritus, Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Mich. He’s the author of Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary (Faith Alive, 2011).Relationships
Q Has the church community failed our children? What can our church family do now to prevent more young people from leaving the faith?
A The most difficult thing for any church community is to live in freedom through love rather than trusting in obedience to the law. When we and our children know God only as a rule-giver rather than as a loving father, and if we have not gotten to know Jesus as a friend of sinners, we have a difficult time living up to a faith that essentially depends on our right behavior.
And when the culture our kids are part of has a different and seemingly more humane set of rules to live by, it becomes even more difficult to hang on to a faith in a God who appears to have more in common with a judge than a loved parent. If your church teaches reliance on obedience to the law to feel secure in your relationship to God, then yes, you are failing your children.
Christ calls each of us individually to faith in him. The Holy Spirit helps us find and know him and teaches us how to obey through loving and comforting us in times of trouble. Our children too are challenged to find the Christ of the Scriptures and to respond to the Holy Spirit’s wooing of their hearts.
These are complex questions that require much soul searching. Christ asks each church community to “humble themselves and pray” in order to discover how we might have “forgotten our first love.” He invites us to open the door of our hearts to him anew, and to show our children the way.
—Judy Cook is a family therapist and a member of Meadowlands Fellowship CRC in Ancaster, Ontario.